Toward an Ethics of Persuasive Technology

TitleToward an Ethics of Persuasive Technology
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1999
AuthorsBerdichevsky, D, Neunschwander, E
JournalCommunications of the ACM
Type of ArticleArticle
Publication Languageeng
ISSN Number00010782
Accession Number11950464
KeywordsCOMPUTER science , Computers , Emerging Technologies , ENGINEERING , Financial , HONESTY , persons , PHILOSOPHY , philosophy of science , technology , Truthfulness
AbstractTechnologies have always influenced people's lives and how they lead them, but for the most part, their effects on people's attitudes and behaviors have been incidental, even accidental. For example, automobiles and highways helped create the American suburbs, but they were not invented with the intent of persuading tens of millions of people to commute to work every day. Early computer spreadsheets gave people the number-crunching abilities needed to model future financial decisions, but did not advise people to take particular actions or reward them for what their designers might have viewed as "good" choices. Only recently have technologies emerged that are actively persuasive in their own right, artifacts created primarily to change attitudes and behaviors of their users. The study of such technologies is called "captology." What if home financial planning software persuaded its users to invest in the stock market? And what if the market then crashed, leaving the users in financial ruin? Or, more subtly, what if the makers of the software arranged with certain companies to "push" their particular stocks? Would such designs differ in a morally relevant reporting information, the technology risks being contradicted and thus devalued as a persuasive agent. The user might subsequently mistrust all persuasive technologies. Therefore, established computer credibility is valuable for persuasive purposes and for many other applications in society Most humans anticipate dishonesty in other humans, sensing it to varying degrees. They do not, however, expect dishonesty from technology, nor do they have any instinctive aptitude for detecting it. To safeguard this credibility and avoid its abuse, authors of this article therefore propose another principle for the design of persuasive technology. These technologies must not misinform in order to achieve their persuasive ends. INSETS: From the Dark Side.;Pack-a-Day Parent..
NotesBErdichevsky, Daniel 1,2; Email Address:; Neunschwander, Erik 3; Email Address:; Affiliations: 1: Executive Director of DemiDec Resources, an Educational Firm Based in Los Angeles.; 2: Associate Manager of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University's Center for the Study of Language and Information in Palo Alto,Calif.; 3: Researcher in the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University's Center for the Study of Language and Information in Palo Alto, Calif.; Issue Info: May99, Vol. 42 Issue 5, p51; Thesaurus Term: TECHNOLOGY; Thesaurus Term: COMPUTERS; Thesaurus Term: FINANCIAL management; Subject Term: TRUTHFULNESS & falsehood; Subject Term: HONESTY; Subject Term: PERSONS; NAICS/Industry Codes: 334111 Electronic Computer Manufacturing; NAICS/Industry Codes: 423430 Computer and Computer Peripheral Equipment and Software Merchant Wholesalers; NAICS/Industry Codes: 523920 Portfolio Management; Number of Pages: 8p; Document Type: Article
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